Super Sales: How this Year Measured Up, and the Impact of the Game on the Music Industry

Super Sales: How this Year Measured Up, and the Impact of the Game on the Music Industry

By David Bakula, SVP Nielsen Entertainment

You may have been one of the 111.5 million viewers who tuned in to Super Bowl XLVIII, the most-watched TV event in U.S. of the last few years. Regardless of whether you rooted for the Seahawks or the Broncos (or let’s be honest, watched the game for the commercials), halftime probably offered something for everyone. Past Bowls have showed diversity in their halftime talent, featuring artists ranging from The Who to Madonna, and this year was no different. While the Internet is buzzing about Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, we see the effects of the Super Bowl in more than just music.


Despite spending years as a songwriter, Bruno Mars released his debut solo album Doo-Wops and Hooligans in 2010, and his second album, Unorthodox Jukebox, just won the GRAMMY Award for Best Pop Vocal Album a few weeks before the performer hit the MetLife Stadium stage this past Sunday. The show began with a children’s choir singing “Billionaire,” which, despite its short performance, saw a lift of 109 percent in track sales after the game. Then, Mars kicked into a drum solo that led into “Locked Out of Heaven” (+133% in track sales and 190% increase in streams from Super Bowl Sunday to Monday). After performing “Treasure” (+104%), Mars was joined by the Red Hot Chili Peppers for a collaborative version of “Give it Away.” The track, originally released in 1991, ended up seeing a lift of a whopping 620 percent and a streaming increase of 399 percent after the show. Mars’ capped the performance with, “Just the Way You Are,” which saw a sales lift of 285 percent.

As with the rest of the game, the performances also sparked conversation in the Twitterverse. In fact, viewers sent 2.3 million Tweets about Bruno Mars and 346,100 Tweets about the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Overall, 15.3 million people saw Tweets about Sunday’s telecast of Super Bowl XLVIII throughout the night, according to Nielsen SocialGuide’s Super Bowl Report.


This year’s halftime show encompassed elements of soul, pop, rap-rock and R&B—all in 12 short minutes—following previous Super Bowl performances in recent history that were equally wide-ranging in genre and scope. When we look at all of the performers (including guests) from 2000-2014 and their core genres, we found nearly equal splits between pop, rock, and R&B (nine-10 of each). Country, however, is the one major genre that seems underrepresented, as Shania Twain was one of the few country artist featured.

Regardless of new or old repertoire, the Super Bowl puts music of all genres in front of the largest TV audiences in any given year, often by way of collaboration. 2011 and 2012 each had 111 million viewers and displayed some of the most diverse shows in terms of genres. For example, 2012’s performance by Madonna featured LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A. and Cee-Lo Green, and the collaboration sparked lifts in both classics and new material alike. For example, Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” saw a 834 percent lift over the previous week after the game, while a song from her 12th album MDNA called “Give Me All Your Luvin’,” featuring M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj, sold more than 165,000 digital songs the week after the Super Bowl.

The 2011 halftime show featured the Black Eyed Peas, Slash and Usher and also included a dose of collaboration performances. Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas and Slash performed “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” which inspired a 73 percent lift in sales of the original Guns N’ Roses track.


Although Super Bowl programmers (including brands that advertise) take advantage of the huge audience watching the show, it’s evident that the sheer exposure and audience makeup provide opportunities for music of all genres to play a major part at halftime. But the music doesn’t start and stop at halftime. Music is everywhere, from the opening National Anthem, performed this year by opera superstar Renee Fleming, to music’s heavy influence in commercials. Artists such as Bob Dylan, Dee Snyder (Twisted Sister) and Loverboy all made appearances, and the extra exposure fueled increases in streams for the featured tunes: Bob Dylan’s “I Want You” (+90%), Skylar Grey’s “Coming Home, Pt. II” (+151%) and Passenger’s “Let Her Go” (+27%).

The music was the message in other commercials. For example, Beats Music’s commercial featured Aloe Blacc’s “Can You Do This” and had a significant impact on Twitter, as 55,100 unique authors sent Tweets that were seen by 2.7 million people. Also, Bank of America’s partnership with U2 that encouraged downloads of the band’s charity single “Invisible” put a social cause and music front and center. Lastly, after the game, a new episode of the FOX sitcom New Girl featured Prince—acting and singing—and capitalized on the heavy post-game viewing and kept the music going well into the night.